Virulence meets metabolism

Cra and KdpE gene regulation in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

Jacqueline W. Njoroge, Y. Nguyen, Meredith M. Curtis, Cristiano G. Moreira, Vanessa Sperandio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria sense diverse environmental signals as cues for differential gene regulation and niche adaptation. Pathogens such as enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), which causes bloody diarrhea, use these signals for the temporal and energy-efficient regulation of their virulence factors. One of the main virulence strategies employed by EHEC is the formation of attaching and effacing (AE) lesions on enterocytes. Most of the genes necessary for the formation of these lesions are grouped within a pathogenicity island, the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), whose expression requires the LEE-encoded regulator Ler. Here we show that growth of EHEC in glycolytic environments inhibits the expression of ler and consequently all other LEE genes. Conversely, growth within a gluconeogenic environment activates expression of these genes. This sugar-dependent regulation is achieved through two transcription factors: KdpE and Cra. Both Cra and KdpE directly bind to the ler promoter, and Cra's affinity to this promoter is catabolite dependent. Moreover, we show that the Cra and KdpE proteins interact in vitro and that KdpE's ability to bind DNA is enhanced by the presence of Cra. Cra is important for AE lesion formation, and KdpE contributes to this Cra-dependent regulation. The deletion of cra and kdpE resulted in the ablation of AE lesions. One of the many challenges that bacteria face within the GI tract is to successfully compete for carbon sources. Linking carbon metabolism to the precise coordination of virulence expression is a key step in the adaptation of pathogens to the GI environment. IMPORTANCE An appropriate and prompt response to environmental cues is crucial for bacterial survival. Cra and KdpE are two proteins found in both nonpathogenic and pathogenic bacteria that regulate genes in response to differences in metabolite concentration. In this work, we show that, in the deadly pathogen enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7, which causes bloody diarrhea, these two proteins influence important virulence traits. We also propose that their control of one or more of these virulence traits is due to the direct interaction of the Cra and KdpE proteins with each other, as well as with their DNA targets. This work shows how EHEC coopts established mechanisms for sensing the metabolites and stress cues in the environment, to induce virulence factors in a temporal and energy-efficient manner, culminating in disease. Understanding how pathogens commandeer nonpathogenic systems can help us develop measures to control them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalmBio
Volume3
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2012

Fingerprint

Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli
Enterocytes
Virulence
Cues
Genes
Virulence Factors
Bacteria
Diarrhea
Proteins
Carbon
Genomic Islands
Aptitude
Escherichia coli O157
DNA
Growth
Gastrointestinal Tract
Transcription Factors
Gene Expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology

Cite this

Virulence meets metabolism : Cra and KdpE gene regulation in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. / Njoroge, Jacqueline W.; Nguyen, Y.; Curtis, Meredith M.; Moreira, Cristiano G.; Sperandio, Vanessa.

In: mBio, Vol. 3, No. 5, 2012.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Njoroge, Jacqueline W. ; Nguyen, Y. ; Curtis, Meredith M. ; Moreira, Cristiano G. ; Sperandio, Vanessa. / Virulence meets metabolism : Cra and KdpE gene regulation in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. In: mBio. 2012 ; Vol. 3, No. 5.
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